As the High Street takes a battering – with well-known chains like Wilco collapsing – one retail sector is booming – the Artisan Market.
Research by the Crafts Council shows annual sales have increased to more than £3 billion.
Buyers are more discerning – wanting high quality products with a proven history, as well as the opportunity to find something different from typical shop products.
It’s a success story being played out at Fulbeck Manor in Lincolnshire.
The Fulbeck Artisans’ Fair has been running for less than a year but month on month the number of traders and customers has grown as its reputation spreads.
The July market had 30 traders’ stalls. In August 42 traders were selling jewellery, sewn gifts, hand turned wooden bowls and locally made jams, chutneys, and gins.
The artisan makers, with its shops in the beautiful courtyard, are also benefiting from the added trade.
So far, more than a thousand shoppers attended the August fair held on the second Saturday of every month.
Alix Fane, the owner of 550-year-old Fulbeck Manor, said:
“This is an exciting time for local producers.
“Shopping at an artisan market is such a joyful experience.
“There are amazing food and drink makers who are passionate about their products.
“We have venison and lamb being sold by the farmers who have reared their stock and who are keen to talk about their food.
“We have jam and chutney makers who have picked the fruit themselves and can tell buyers about the ingredients and flavours.
“There are beautifully handmade sewing items costing from a couple of pounds to hundreds.
“I am amazed and delighted at the creativity of the artisans.
“Buyers are attracted to handmade gifts which offer ‘something different’ from the High Street.
“Even in our café we serve homemade jams.”
The Fulbeck Manor workshops would have originally housed coaches, horses, and tack.
The stables were designed by a distinguished architect in the early 1900s and have been lovingly restored to host local crafters.
Elizabeth Hunt, event organiser and renowned international jeweller designer, who has a shop at Fulbeck Manor Courtyard said:
“More and more people are asking me for stalls to sell their craft work and home-produced items at Fulbeck.
“Each month, even if it’s raining, there is a real buzz.
“It’s a family day out.
“It’s a chance to buy unique gifts.
“And it’s a chance to buy workmanship of outstanding quality.
“What’s more, it’s often cheaper than mass produced equivalents.”
The Craft Council research revealed that between 2006 and 2023 the number of people buying crafted goods in England increased from 6.9 million to 37.7 million.
More than 24.7m items are sold online or at open markets – a £3 billion a year self-driven industry.
Picture: Maisie and a Daisy Dog Creatives bandana
Ardent shopper Catherine Peatfield explained how artisan markets have become a regular day out:
She said: “I don’t want to trudge round shopping centres.
“It’s most depressing in town as shops are either empty or being run as charity shops.
“It’s hard to park and you are often served by a surly teenager who doesn’t want to be there.
“But an artisan’s market is friendly, a lovely location and you can take the dog round with you!
“Sometimes it looks like Crufts.
“People have time to chat and the sellers actually smile!”